Coming from behind: Vietnam finally catches up with the trendy elephant poop coffee

Thanh Nien News

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 Photo credit: Vietnamnet

In late 2012, international media started to report about the world’s most unusual and also priciest specialty coffee that was produced in Thailand.
The beans came from elephant poop and fetched about US$50 per cup.
When the news hit Vietnam, which is always proud of its rich coffee culture, many expressed jealousy, while others desired for a taste of the extravagant drink.
Things have changed since and the country is now ready to be part of the trend. 
News website VietNamNet on Monday reported that a professional elephant breeder in the central highlands province of Dak Lak has successfully produced this special coffee.
Visitors to Lak Lake, a popular destination about 56 kilometers to the south of Buon Ma Thuot Town, can ask for the coffee which many say is “fragrant,” “slightly bitter,” “buttery,” and "tastes like chocolate".
The beans sell for VND2.4 million ($112.6) per kilogram.
Producer Dang Nang Long said one of his customers, a German restaurant owner, told him that the coffee is more authentic than the one found in Thailand. 
Long, who keeps seven elephants, said the animals were fed with the best coffee cherries he bought directly from local farms. Their diet also includes corn flour, rice flour, banana, pineapple, and jackfruit.
For each lump of dung, he can harvest five kilograms of beans on average.
The beans are dried in the sun twice, before having their skins removed by machine and then being washed in light alcohol.
After being sundried for another few hours, they are ready for being roasted and ground.
‘Long the elephant’

 Photo credit: vietnamnet

Long said he produced coffee in an effort to solve the problem that has faced many elephant breeders for years: most of the so-called "domestic elephants" are used for tourism, but the business’s profits are not enough to cover costs including feeding.
More importantly, he does not want to rely on the elephants’ labor forever. In many other places, elephants have died from overwork, leaving their owners bankrupt.
Breeding elephants has been his family's business for four generations. But it was not until one year ago that he learned about the new farming practice that could benefit the animals, as they do not have to work and receive a consistently good diet, Long said.
The man, who is dubbed “Long the elephant,” is always known for his skills of taking care of elephants and “fierce” dedication to protecting them, according to the news website.
It said Long himself once tracked down people who hunted local elephants for their tails, which some locals believe can bring good luck in love and business.
Thanks to his tip-off, provincial authorities were able to prosecute the elephant attackers, who ended up being jailed for as long as three years.
In an explanation for his dedication to elephants, Long said he used to work as a cook who was specialized in wild life dishes. 
He did not give details about how he came to his senses about 20 years ago, but said that he wanted to atone for his past mistakes. 

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